Red Mountain at Desert Ridge
The most formidable passing team in the East Valley takes on one of the best rushing attacks. Red Mountain quarterback Mason Thorman (97-of-135 for 1,477 yards, 19 TD, 6 INT) has been the best signal-caller in the East Valley through the first half of the season, and the Jaguars secondary will get their toughest test of the season trying to slow down wide receivers Aeron Carr and Drake Pierre. The Desert Ridge running game features quarterback Tarek Morrison and running back J.J. Husar, but the Jaguars haven’t yet moved the ball effectively through the air against good competition. A win by Red Mountain may be enough to move it to No. 1 in the state. A win by Desert Ridge would thrust it right back into state title contender status.
Prediction: Red Mountain 35, Desert Ridge 31
— Kyle Odegard
Chandler at Hamilton
This isn’t the first, second, or even third time “this” year appears to be Chandler’s best chance at knocking off Hamilton. The Wolves’ offense can sustain drives or nail you with the big play and the defense has played well to date. Equally as important, the Wolves have shown resiliency in coming back from a dreadful first half to beat a good Basha team two weeks ago. Hamilton’s progress continues, especially offensively, as the Huskies’ simplified approach has worked well the past few weeks, mostly using the run to set up passes and not committing turnovers. A neck-swivling style of play favors Chandler, but when does Hamilton’s defense find itself trying to stop an offensive shootout? Hamilton’s running game and offensive line is going to test Chandler’s interior defense while the Wolves want to make Hamilton throw more often than run. Hamilton’s linebackers and secondary are top-notch and one or two big/trick plays are always up the sleeve. If not this time, then when? Some day very soon, possibly even in November.
Prediction: Hamilton 20, Chandler 17
— Mark Heller
Mountain Pointe at Brophy
Brophy seems to have all the pieces in place to be a contender, but has been a bit out of sorts this year. Quarterback Tyler Bruggman has only completed 47.9 percent of his passes and already has five interceptions — three more than he did all of last year. Wide receiver Devon Allen is not as involved in the offense as expected. Mountain Pointe, meanwhile, has pulled out close games against Hamilton, Desert Vista and Chandler, leaving little doubt it can hang with the best in Division I. Will the Pride make it an impressive 4-0 against this elite stretch of teams, or will the Broncos play to their potential?
Prediction: Brophy 27, Mountain Pointe 21
— Kyle Odegard
Pinnacle at Mountain View
You could use the 2011 game as a benchmark, a 35-10 victory for Pinnacle, except this is a better Mountain View team, especially the last three weeks. The Toros have found balance in their offense, led by QB John Clark and RB Weston Birtcher. Mountain View’s defense earned its second shutout of the season last week, but Pinnacle’s running game hasn’t been stopped to date. The Pioneers’ Josh Hoekstra hasn’t been stopped this season (862 yards, 11 TDs) while Michael Sanders continues to progress as a passer, and the Pioneers’ offensive line has a significant size advantage on Mountain View’s defensive front. Disciplined defense and no mental mistakes against Mountain View is a requisite, and Pinnacle has struggled at times to shore up those areas. The Pioneers also haven’t played a difficult schedule to date, but the beat goes on for another week, though no question Mountain View will make life difficult.
Prediction: Pinnacle 31, Mountain View 24
— Mark Heller
Saguaro at Desert Vista
There is a large enrollment disparity between these two teams, but the Sabercats are no ordinary Division III team, of course. The Thunder knows that all too well from last year, when Saguaro jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead before Desert Vista used a huge second half to rally for the 31-28 victory. Both schools went on to win their respective state championships and this rematch could be just as entertaining. Saguaro has the most dynamic player on the field in wide receiver Christian Kirk, but it must be able to run the ball to have a chance. Desert Vista should be able to control the line of scrimmage, which will work out well for the Thunder in this one.
Prediction: Desert Vista 35, Saguaro 27
— Kyle Odegard